What Is A Jubilee?

In my article “What Is A Sabbath Year,” I described how God told the Israelites that the land that they were being given was to be a very special piece of land. It was to be a Holy Land.

But there is more to this concept of the Sabbath than just a seven year cycle. God then extended it out one more time. First it was seven “days.” Then it was seven “years.” And finally, it was seven “Sabbaths.”

The Year of Jubilee

Leviticus 25:8 (NKJV): “And you shall count seven sabbaths of years for yourself, seven times seven years; and the time of the seven sabbaths of years shall be to you forty-nine years.” This seven year cycle would last for seven cycles and then something very special was to happen.

Leviticus 25:10 (NKJV): “And you shall consecrate the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout all the land to all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you; and each of you shall return to his possession, and each of you shall return to his family.” This was to be a very special year, in addition to the Sabbath year. This was to be the Sabbath of Sabbaths.

The Year of Jubilee was to be the most important event in the history of the Holy Land and for the Israelites who lived there. Everything that they did in this special place centered around this special year.

For this reason, very specific instructions were given concerning the keeping of this Jubilee year. Throughout Leviticus 25 and 27, you can read the many specific instructions that God gave concerning how the Jubilee year would be kept. This Jubilee year was so important to God that He uses Leviticus 26 explaining what would happen if they did not keep the commandments concerning this special year.

God had given specific instructions as to how the Sabbath year was to be kept, but it was nothing like the instructions He gave concerning how the Jubilee year was to be kept. This was to be a very special year for the Israelites and for the land they were to inhabit.

What Was To Happen In This Jubilee Year?

Two very important things were to happen in this fiftieth year. First, it would be exactly like the Sabbath year. It was to be a time of rest for the people and for the land.

But it was to be much more than just a year of rest, it was to be a time of restoration. It would be a time to restore everything back to its original intent. That is, the year of Jubilee was to remind the people that this was God’s land, not theirs. They were just stewards of this special piece of land.

This fact is also expressed in other places in the Bible such as in Leviticus 25:23 (NKJV): “The land shall not be sold permanently, for the land is Mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with Me.”

How Special Was This Year?

Read Leviticus 25:23 again. What was God telling them to do? God was telling them to do what we would call “leasing” the land. God spells this out in Leviticus 25:15-16 (NKJV): “According to the number of years after the Jubilee you shall buy from your neighbor, and according to the number of years of crops he shall sell to you. According to the multitude of years you shall increase its price, and according to the fewer number of years you shall diminish its price; for he sells to you according to the number of the years of the crops.”

In other words, if you “sold” some land to someone else, you were to set the price depending on the number of years left before the next Jubilee year. This meant that the new “owner” would “lease” the land for that number of years and then it would automatically return to the family that originally owned it.

This was so important to God that He gave specific instructions as to what to do if the land could not be returned to its original owner. Read Leviticus 25 and 27.

How Could This Work?

How could the people survive if they could not plant crops for two years? This would seem impossible. But God is the God of the impossible. God told them exactly what would happen.

He said in Leviticus 25:21 (NKJV): “Then I will command My blessing on you in the sixth year, and it will bring forth produce enough for three years.” This promise concerned both the observing of the Sabbath year as well as the observing of the year of Jubilee.

God was telling the Israelites that if they observed all these special laws concerning the land, that He would provide for them. They would not have to be concerned about having enough to eat during these times of rest.

God was telling the Israelites that He would perform miracles for them if they kept their part of the covenant. The year of Jubilee followed the seventh Sabbath year. This meant that there would be two years in a row that they would not sow or reap their crops.

During these two years, they could only eat what voluntarily grew in the fields. In other words, they were to be entirely dependant on God for their food. God was telling the Israelites that they were His special people and He was going to take care of them in a special way.

The Restoration

But God established something else that was to be very special concerning this land. God gave a command that would only apply to His Holy Land. In the year of Jubilee, all property would return to their original owner. Why? God was showing His people that this special piece of land they were occupying was not theirs, but it belonged to God.

This may seem like a very strange command to give to the Israelite people. After all, God created all people as free people. He created us to be able to do what we wanted to do and how we wanted to do it. Why this special command? Why were the Israelites singled out and not allowed to permanently possess property?

The answer lies in the promise that God had given Abraham. Genesis 12:2-3 (NKJV):
I will make you a great nation;
I will bless you
And make your name great;
And you shall be a blessing.
I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”

The Israelites were chosen to be a special people, called to be a special blessing to the whole world. They were chosen to bring God’s special blessing into the world.

Even Slaves Were To Be Freed

Many wonder why slavery was permitted among this special group of people. We must understand one thing. This slavery was not the same as the slavery that people experience today. When people got heavily into debt, there was no way provided for them to get out of debt. Thus, they “sold” themselves into a master/slave relationship with the one they were in deep debt to until they could pay off the debt.

But this was not to be a permanent condition. When the Jubilee year came around, all property was to be return to its original owner, this included all slaves, In other words, all slaves were to be returned to their own families. All debts were to be forgiven.

The Holy Land Was God’s Special Land

This Sabbath Year and the Year of Jubilee were to only apply to the Holy Land. Yes, God created the whole world and the whole world does belong to God. But, the Holy Land was set aside for a special purpose. It would be the safe land for His special people to dwell in. All the Israelites had to do was to obey the laws that God had laid down for this special land and He would provide for them and keep them safe.

However, the Sabbath Year was not kept as God had commanded. Read about what happened in my article “What Is A Sabbath Year?” And since the Sabbath Year was not kept, neither could the Jubilee year be kept. However, the Jubilee Year is a very special time for God. In fact, as we will see in my next article, “Israel’s Future,” God is still basing what happens to Israel around the Jubilee Year.

As we will see, the year of Jubilee does play a central and most important role in their future. Even though the Jews have not kept the year of Jubilee, it is still a very important year in God’s eyes.  The next year of Jubilee is a time that we still have to look forward to.


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